Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Harp in Covent Garden

The Harp in Covent Garden is a famous prize winning pub and part of our tour of London Top 25 pubs. Unfortunately we found it quite disappointing. The location is the most central you can get, just a stone's throw from Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. And perhaps it may have been the best real-ale-oriented pub in the West End for a while, but newer, more comfortable pubs in the area may offer a similar selection.

This strikes me as a pub that would have performed a lot better when people could smoke inside. At least, the familiar smell of tobacco would have covered the reek that welcomes you when stepping in. There isn't much space where to move or sit; spilling some beer because of other guests' elbows is to be expected. The upstairs is quieter, but is damp, dirty and smellier than downstairs. We looked at the large amount of dust on the ceiling fans and were horrified when someone came up and switched them on. Our beers just ended up changing taste. This just isn't a good place where to spend a night. Perhaps it may be good for a quick pint before getting the train from Charing Cross, if you have a cold.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cask Pub and Kitchen, Pimlico

This week's expedition to a Top 25 London pub involved a trek down to the Victoria/Pimlico area to visit the Cask Pub and Kitchen, just off the Vauxhall Bridge Road. The beer range in this place, a prodigious selection of bottles and pumps--on which see below--is without fault. The venue itself, on the other hand, was not really to my taste: it's more of a modern gastro-pub style bar, pretty open-plan inside, and the lack of carpets or any other soft furnishings combined with the crowded bar meant that it was uncomfortably noisy.

Service, while friendly and knowledgeable, was slow, and the one time we ordered a bowl of chips it was waylaid, therefore taking a complaint and half an hour to get to us. That said, the menu looked really nice; not a very wide selection, but better quality than your average pub grub. There must have been a dozen to twenty beers on tap (ten or so hand-pulled from cask), with a very wide range of both British and Belgian bottled beers in fridges both behind and to the side of the bar.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mad Bishop & Bear, Paddington Station our continuing tour of Des De Moor's recommended Top 25 Pubs and Bars in London, we visited the Mad Bear and Bishop, a large, open-plan pub in the second storey above the concourse of Paddington Station. Despite the location this is a remarkably civilized pub, with comfortable seating, not too crowded with commuters, a good menu and a respectable beer range (for a tied pub, at least: almost no non-Fuller's titles on tap).

I started off the night with a Black Cab Stout, a Fuller's ale I hadn't come across before, and was very pleased indeed that I did. It's a pitch dark beer, but with a very dark red translucence rather than pure black; it gives off the aroma of dusty smoke, not as much harsh charcoal as most stouts, more like the dusty threshing of young wheat. The first taste is quite tart and sappy, with more yeasty bitterness on the swill, but a very pelasantly mild swallow. I suppose this is a stout rather than a porter, but it's one of the most mellow stouts I've had in a while. Very pleasing. I don't know why this isn't on tap more widely in London.